Youth - Lent
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.10.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Holy Week

We enter the holiest week of the Christian year. Throughout this week, we will read continuously from Matthew's version of the Last Supper, the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our Lord. The temptation in reading any familiar story is to gloss over it quickly. We've heard it all before. Thus, we miss the opportunity to immerse ourselves in this grand narrative of tragedy and triumph, human sinfulness and Jesus's faithfulness, paralyzing fear and sacrificial love, bitter death and sweet resurrection to new life.

 

Each day, read the text slowly one time, then again, and even a third time if possible. Allow the story to move from your head to your heart. Note what words strike you, what characters resemble you or repulse you, and what Jesus endured for you. God's story is your story.

 

Holy Week Readings:

Monday: Matthew 26:1-29

Tuesday: Matthew 26:30-46

Wednesday: Matthew 26:47-75

Thursday: Matthew 27:1-31

Friday: Matthew 27:32-66


After each reading, ask yourself:

What does this story tell us about the God revealed in Jesus?

What does this story tell us about humanity?

What prayer would you offer to God this day? What prayers would you offer for others, for our world?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 April 2017 09:46
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.8.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Saturday: Insights for the journey.


 

Each Saturday we hope you will gather the salient experiences, the accumulated insights, the inner promptings from the week and write them down on the journal page.


How have you experienced God's presence this week?


How has your connection with yourself, with others deepened because of your intentional work with this Discipline of Community?


What about this discipline will you continue to build into your life?


Ask God for continued guidance and encouragement as you make the journey of this season.


Engage Life!

 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.7.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Friday: A personal reflection.

 

Forming community is holy but hard. It's different than just attending worship and participating in church activities or spending time together. Several autumns ago, six of my university students unexpectedly invited my wife and me to join them for lunch at Panera Bread in metro-Detroit. We met together, ate, and talked about life and college. As the small talk subsided, they shared with us the real reason we were together. This group, mostly seniors at this point, was staring graduation in the face. When they thought about their relationships with each other, they were at a loss. They had been friends for years and had navigated the liberal arts college experience together.


Inside, however, they had a nagging suspicion that unless something changed, unless something intentional happened, that they would graduate and leave school and never really talk to one another again. They spent a lot of time together, going to eat, critiquing pop culture, theologizing, and having fun, yet they sensed that there was something deeper and more substantive that they were missing, the thing that would really bond them together as a community. For some reason, they asked us to help them change it.


Each Friday for the rest of the school year, this great group of students came to our house. We would share dinner and catch up on small talk before we more intentionally practiced the discipline of community. After eating we took turns sharing our stories with one another. The simple practices of creating hospitable lives, of being vulnerable to each other, and of deep listening changed each of us. God was present.


Do you have any casual relationships now that, with a little more intentionality, could become significant relationships?


What can you do to move in that direction?

 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.6.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Thursday: How can we talk about this with others?

 

The themes of unity, diversity, vulnerability, and transformation permeate the discipline of community. As you talk with your small group or close friend, reflect upon this experience individually, consider these questions:


How, and through whom, did I experience community when I was growing up?


What keeps me from opening up to others?


Are there any relationships I need to tend to right now?

 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.5.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Wednesday: What do our guides say?

 

"Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence much better than scattered individuals. The fire of God kindles higher as the brands are heaped together and each is warmed by the other's flame. The members of the body must be in contact if they are to sustain and be sustained by each other. Christian redemption is not devised to be a solitary thing, though each individual of course has a unique and direct relationship with God, and God alone is his or her Lord and Judge. But The Life is one that requires some regular and profound conjunction with others who share it. It is greatly diminished when that is lacking. (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 186-7)

 

These are wise words from a deep, spiritual mentor. Spend some time reflecting on your relationships with others in your community. When you gather together, are you individual brands sitting on the edge of afire, or are you heaped together and wanned by one another's flames ? How do others contribute to the strength of your life in God? How do you contribute to others ?

 

Before you retire this evening, take an inventory of your day. What most consumed your time, attention, and energy? How often were you consciously aware of others in your community? Where did you sense the greatest sustaining and life-giving connection to others? Where did you sense the greatest sense of disconnection? Prayerfully talk with God about these things.

 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.4.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Tuesday: What do the Scriptures say?

 

Community is one of those spiritual disciplines where we are the most human and the most divine. As we turn to the Scriptures this week, spend time prayerfully reflecting on Psalm 133 and the Philippians 2:1-8 passage. After stilling yourself for a brief moment of silence, begin by praying this simple prayer of illumination from Gregory of Nazianzus:


Lord, as I read the Psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.


"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore" (Psalm 133).


Reflect on your life in community. Where do you sense the divine blessing of God in your relationships with others? Where do you sense its absence?


"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death" (Philippians 2:1-8, TNIV).


The words Paul uses here are so pregnant with the possibility of life and death in community: tenderness, compassion, humility, selfish ambition, vain conceit. Read slowly through this passage again.


Where do you see your own life? What stories, what names and faces and scenes, can you connect to each of these powerful and poignant words? Throughout your day, ask God to reveal to you how you can better "have the same attitude of mind that Christ Jesus had" with others in your community.

 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.3b.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Monday: What can I do?

 

We can create space to listen. There are many robust practices of community, but one of the most powerful acts is sharing and listening to our stories. Story listening is truly an act of participation. We are changed when we receive another person's life story and begin to weave it together with our own.


• This week, you are invited to join with two or three other youth for a story listening session.  Include a person you know fairly well and one or two you do not know well. This can happen on Wednesday in your church small group or outside of that routine. Explain that you want to come together to share your life stories with each other. When you are together, give each person 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time to share their story in whatever way they choose, while the rest of you are simply free to listen with no pressure to respond or outdo the storyteller. When the storyteller is done, feel free to ask questions and explore the story for a bit before affirming the ways that you see God working in that person's life and in their story. If there is not enough time for everyone in the group to share, you might let two people share their stories each night. (Imagine about 40-45 minutes of sharing each time you're together.)


• After the experience, reflect on what happened that evening. Where did you sense God in your midst? How was God made you closer to these other people as you received their stories and offered them yours? How would our lives and our communities be different if they were marked by this kind of sharing with each other?

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:56
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.3a.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Week Five


Discipline of Community by Eric Magnusson


"As you are in me and I am in you..." Relationship. It is the most foundational reality of life. As people, each and every one of us is born into relationship. We are nurtured for around forty weeks in a rich symbiotic participation with our birth mothers and born into the complex freedom of life in relationship with others. Long before we define ourselves by our professions or our natural giftedness, before we are athletes, teachers, sanitation workers, civil servants, pastors, or scholars, we are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, lovers and enemies and friends. Relationship, and therefore community, is at the very heart of what it means to he human, and to be created in the image and likeness of the Triune God.


In some ways this most basic reality stands in contrast to how we often understand our identity as Christians. In a Christian culture where the litmus test of faith is often one's personal relationship with Jesus, the discipline of community is a commitment to a counter-cultural way of life - a life with, for, and in relation to others. Christian community is a reflection of God. The essence, the very nature of God is relational - open, participatory, receptive, welcoming. It is life characterized by self-giving and other-receiving love, in which each person of the Trinity creates space in Gods self for the other persons: as Jesus said, "as you, Father, are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21).


The discipline of community, then, is one of the most vital ways that we can reflect God in the world. The discipline of community is a radical commitment to open ourselves to the transformative work of God's Spirit as we encounter God in one other, for we can never really encounter another person and be left unchanged. It is a participation in God's work of redemption and reconciliation in the world. And ultimately, community is about becoming who we truly are, because we really only become the persons God has created us to be in and with and through our relationships with other people. The with-God life is the with-community life, so we travel and we engage life together!

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:58
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 4.1.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Saturday: Insights for the journey.

 

Each Saturday we hope you will gather the salient experiences, the accumulated insights, the inner promptings from the week and write them down on the journal page.


How have you experienced God's presence this week?


How has your connection with yourself, with others deepened because of your intentional work with this Discipline of Service?


What about this discipline will you continue to build into your life?


Ask God for continued guidance and encouragement as you make the journey of this season.


Engage Life!

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:58
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 3.31.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Friday: A personal reflection.

 

I am uplifted by the many ways children are encouraged to serve now a days. When I was young I remember being taught the Golden Rule and watching my parents help others, but it was nothing near the emphasis of service that many children are taught today. Recycling, volunteering at food banks, and "adopting highways" are part of children's lives in contrast to our self-centered, consumer culture. There is great hope.


When I think of the many ways I have received God's great love, people are always involved. When I was a junior in high school there was a teacher with whom I would talk for hours. Who knows what we talked about but I do remember his generous ear and heart. When our children were young and my husband and I were trying to be good parents and pastors - it took a village. We received meals, encouragement, and prayers. And when my dad was dying of cancer, the service of love, prayers, casseroles, and the occasional good humor, got us through.


Call to mind the many ways you have been blessed by others throughout your life or just in the past few days. Take a quick inventory of what you already engage in that promotes the good of others as you go through the day. Offer a prayer of thanks for the many ways you have been blessed by others.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:58
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 3.30.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Thursday: How can we talk about this with others?

 

The themes of sacrifice, giftedness, and focus on others permeate the discipline of service. As you talk with a formational friend or reflect upon this experience individually, consider these questions:


Who do you know that models a life of service? What characteristics are evident in their life?


What messages did you receive about others when you were growing up? Were you encouraged to serve others or live for yourself?


What unique gifts do you have to offer? Where can you offer them?

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:59
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 3.29.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Wednesday: What do our guides say?

 

"True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings." (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p.128)


When have you experienced "whispered promptings" to help others? What happened? What was the outcome?


Do a "motivation check" - do you seek affirmation and results in your service to others, or are you willing to do your best and let go and allow God to work?


How do you cultivate your relationship with God, the divine Other?

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 12:59
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 3.28.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Tuesday: What do the Scriptures say?


Matthew 20:26-28 - "It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many".


How have you been "served" by God?


Where do you see God at work through people sharing their time, gifts, and love?


Frederick Buechner teaches us that, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC) Where does your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet?


How is God glorified when you share your gifts with others? How is God glorified when you allow others to share their gifts with you?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 March 2017 16:37
 
Youth - ENGAGE - 3.27b.2017 PDF Print E-mail

Monday: What can I do?


"In service we engage our goods and strength in the active promotion of the good of others and the causes of God in our world." (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p.182)

 

• Pray for openness to see the needs of others. Opportunities to promote the good of others (friends and strangers) come to us all the time. Pray for openness to see these opportunities as well as the humility and wisdom to engage.


• Listen to others with no agenda or need to "fix" them. Imagine seeing them through Jesus's eyes and allow them the space to be heard.


• Let go and love. Take a chance to offer God's love to others in daily life. Hold the door open for others, attempt to be patient in the grocery line or in traffic, contact someone you are thinking of, surprise someone with a smile, speak up when others are being belittled.


• Practice hospitality in the workplace, where you volunteer, at home, at church, anywhere.


• Allow others to serve you with gratitude. You may be providing a great opportunity for their soul!

Last Updated on Monday, 03 April 2017 13:01
 
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